Vintage fashion always wears well, especially when it’s been lovingly restored and presented, as is the case with the treasure trove of garments and accessories at Twisting Vintage in Mittagong.
Owner and operator of the store, Gillian Herne, has always had a keen eye for fashion, from a very young age. I caught up with her to talk about her gorgeous vintage emporium and her success having her meticulously restored pieces featured in the 2018 Australian film Ladies in Black.
Q: How long have you been in fashion and in particular vintage fashion?
A: Forever! Fashion has been my thing ever since I was a little girl and then as a teenager, I was very much influenced by a lady called Amy that I used to babysit for. She wore these incredible maxi skirts from a shop called Biba in London. She inspired me to work in fashion.
Q: You have such an incredible eye and you are also a faultless seamstress. Have you always had these skills?
A: I have always been creative. I did a four-year fashion design and construction course in Tameside College of Technology in Manchester, England.
When I moved to Australia, I first worked in a department store in Sydney. I then moved to Canberra where I ended up managing dress store. I moved to the Southern Highlands in 1984 and worked as a dressmaker for many years, before launching Twisting Vintage as a small stall in Mittagong Antiques Centre. After a while, things became quite busy and big, so I opened my own store just across the road four years ago and I haven’t really looked back.
Q: You have worked in modern fashion. What drew you specifically to vintage fashion?
A: I love the quality of the era. I also love to be distinctive and do things that are not mainstream. I have never wanted to tell the same story as everyone else. Then, I realised that with the Internet, and a few trusted connections, I could find these great quality pieces across the world, by sitting in my own sewing and workroom. When I realised that I could buy and sell Pucci pieces that nobody else had their hands on, I was so excited. I realised these things needed to be saved and preserved! To be able to find a home for them through Twisting Vintage is the icing on the cake!
Q: I love that you have garments that are pieces of art, but they are at the same time totally wearable. How do you manage that?
A: Twisting Vintage isn’t a museum. My aim has always been to buy pieces to restore and sell. I love colour, design and fabric.
I’ve always wanted to be a bit different and express myself. To be able to make a business out of it is so amazing. It’s not a frivolous pastime. I invest a lot into buying the garments, restoring them and showcasing them in a lovely way. It is then very special to find the perfect person to wear them!
Q: Twisting Vintage is arguably the Southern Highlands best vintage fashion store. What do you think makes it so special?
A: The skills I have acquired and grown over the years give me the ability to restore a piece to how it ought to be. There really are only a few places that offer that kind of vintage fashion. I’m really conscious of the fact that people don’t want to buy smelly old clothes. They want to buy beautiful pieces of wearable art that have a lifetime of many years after they have left the shop! I believe this is what makes Twisting Vintage stand out.
Q: How do you source all the incredible vintage fashion finds?
A: A very small percentage are donated to me. I do look around locally and try to buy local pieces. Some of the pieces that ended up in Ladies in Black came from a lady who lived in Mittagong all her life. I bought them from her daughter the year before. I source things from across the world via a network of contacts I have through my many years in fashion. While I do look online a lot, I don’t just buy anything. Everything comes from a well-trusted source.
Q: On that note, how did the connection with Ladies in Black come about?
A: It was an accident! Wendy Cork, who was the costume designer on the film, has an amazing aunt who she cares for in Bowral. Wendy was visiting her aunt and called into the shop one afternoon. We spent a good two hours searching through all the vintage fashion I had in store. The next day, she had a budget from her director and came and spent around $20, 000! I bought some of the clothes back at a post-shoot sale.
Q: That must have been so exciting. Back to the garments themselves, do you have to do much work on them to get them sale-ready?
A: Yes, definitely! Everything is cleaned to begin with, hemmed, seamed and buttons and zippers are all checked. I make sure each piece has any many miles to go as it has already travelled. Even though a garment might be 60 years old, it is still worthy of being worn. They are not museum pieces, although I do have a lot of collectors coming through the door!
Q: What has been your all-time favourite vintage fashion find?
A: I have had a couple of Pucci pieces come in and out the door. I find that I often don’t like selling them. I get emotionally attached to them, but it is nice seeing them go to a good home. If you know that someone is going to wear the piece and enjoy it, it’s a great feeling.
There was an early 1960s Oleg Cassini piece that a regular customer bought. Oleg Cassini created the look for Jackie Kennedy. This customer is just so lovely, so it was wonderful to see her joy.
Q: Do you ever wear modern clothes or are you always rocking vintage?
A: I adapt my look with a mixture of authentic vintage and modern pieces, which is what I try to encourage people to do when they visit my shop. That is the Twisting Vintage ethos – to mix things up from old and new! I also love the sustainability of wearing garments that are pre-loved from whatever era. Blending silhouettes and styles to create your own individuality and signature look is what Twisting Vintage is all about!
If you would like to know more about life in the beautiful Southern Highlands, please feel free to contact me!
Love Di xx